Free Range Children

The Magistra is sometimes amazed that I survived my childhood, given the kinds of things my best friend and I used to do. However, we're both much more risk-tolerant than seems the norm these days. Kids pretty much never get to to anything fun, and I'm sure there are people who thought that when I was a kid.

So here is an interview with Lenore Skenazy, author of the book Free Range Children, that lays out the facts. Lots of parents have exaggerated fears about how dangerous the world is:

Perhaps the problem needed to be approached from a different angle, she thought. What if you actually wanted your child to be kidnapped by a stranger and held overnight?  How long would you have to leave him outside, and unattended for that to be likely to happen? When she asked people to take a guess, the most she ever heard was three months. Some people ventured a day, an hour, and even - implausibly - ten minutes.

The answer to Skenazy’s question was… 750,000 years. By reframing the way the risk was framed, she took the focus away from one, and placed it on what the chance was in real time – and 750,000 years is a far more arresting and reassuring number than one in 1.5 million.

The Magistra and I have joked that we should require all of our childrens' friends' parents to sign a liability waiver before we let them in our house. Our kids will probably get something like that Gever Tulley advocates in his talk, 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do. It is difficult to have much fun, or learn anything, if you never do anything remotely dangerous.